Communication is a critical component of successful leadership. Whether you’re the manager of a small team or leading a large network of workers, vital information will be ignored or misunderstood by teams if you don’t have the correct skills and tools to effectively communicate.
This is especially true when promoting workplace health and safety (H&S), as methods of communication are often ‘make or break’ for safety. The wrong strategy can lead to disengaged and uninformed employees – who easily become accidents waiting to happen.
Studies show that organisations who score highly in employee engagement experience 70% fewer safety accidents compared to bottom-quartile scoring units, and engaged teams are less likely to make mistakes. In fact, when dealing with an H&S incident, the ability to prevent mistakes before they happen, or recall important information, can be lifesaving.
The Importance of Communication in Safety Culture
'Safety culture' refers to shared organisational values towards mitigating risk. This is when the majority of people within a company place high value in maintaining a safe workplace, from senior management to temporary workers.
Historically, poor safety culture and communication has been behind infamous and large-scale health and safety incidents, highlighting why it's a powerful strategy to encourage better safer processes. However, employee mistakes are not the only point of blame. Bad management decisions that overlook the need to establish communication channels with workers, or ignore employee feedback, can cause significant risks.
Creating meaningful health and safety communication channels is the first step towards building a better culture of H&S. As an employer, failing to communicate safety protocols or not giving your employees a health and safety platform to store and access vital information, causes extraneous risk. More so, your employees will lack the resources to learn about H&S, or intuitively report accidents and near-miss incidents in real-time.
Health and safety communication goes both ways. Employers should recognise that simply publishing a health and safety policy won't have a long-standing effect on your business. It's unlikely employees will remember H&S if they've only glanced at a document once, or follow processes without the right tools to do so.
How Can You Improve Communication?
Improving communication processes for health and safety, such as the channels you use, how you record vital information, or methods of employee feedback, has the power to boost safety culture in your organisation. By doing this, you'll encourage greater self-responsibility in your people, so H&S becomes a shared responsibility rather than a disjointed one.
So, what simple steps can you implement to improve communication in your organisation?
Put Safety First
Depending on your industry or workplace, putting safety first will require different levels of time and resource. For example, office workers don't need a refresh on fire alarm procedures every day, but a monthly test will ensure they're able to react safely if a fire occurred. Alternatively, for a construction business with employees based on a work-site, regular, weekly equipment safety checks are necessary to remain compliant and keep workers safe.
In both these scenarios, safety comes first. By ensuring safety protocols are put into practice, not just written on paper, you're communicating the importance of H&S with your workforce. This improves employee engagement and mitigates risk.
Businesses can use online safety software to record these safety procedures or receive automatic reminders of when to hold them next. This ensures safety isn't confined to a handbook.
Following the implementation of safety protocols, it's important to measure engagement. Employers should assess the frequency of safety checks and attendance rates of safety meetings.
By doing this, you can identify teams or areas of your business where engagement is low, and communicate targeted H&S advice, information, or training.
This could be via an intranet portal, email, or by displaying signage in your organisation. Better yet, if your audit identifies individuals who require training, you can swiftly get them up to speed. If a focus on communication has previously been missing, crucial compliance measures may well have been overlooked.
Use Online Safety Management Tools
Communicating with employees and measuring their engagement is a step in the right direction, but monitoring compliance and recording H&S data so closely can become complex when multiple people and projects are involved.
Here, an online tool becomes your most effective communication asset. Online health and safety management software enables you to communicate and share vital information direct to key individuals, such as audit reminders or accident reports. And, most importantly, it empowers employees to manage H&S independently from one dashboard, and store all vital information in one place.
Safety Starts At The Top
Safety communications should start at the top-level of your organisation, but permeate across all grades of your business. By developing communication channels that engage employees and enable individuals to feed back, you will open up a two-way channel of communication between you and your workforce. To get a comprehensive overview of how online health and safety software can help you, book a free demo.